We’d meant to compare French tonkotsu with Japanese tonkotsu, but we couldn’t resist trying a brand new kind of ramen!

If you’ve been following us for long, you’ll know our Japanese-language reporters are experienced travelers. They’ve been all over the world, traversing the Saharan Desert in Morocco and hunting tortured ghosts in English castles, and when they get hungry, they’re all about testing other countries’ renditions of Japanese food.

Our reporter Ikuna Kamezawa, who’s spent the year touring Africa, Europe, and Asia, is currently gallivanting around in France, and happened to find herself in what’s known as the Little Tokyo of Paris. There she came across the Parisian branch of the popular ramen shop Ippudo, which is famous for its tonkotsu pork stock ramen. She felt compelled to try the French Ippudo’s version of tonkotsu ramen. What if it’s totally different, even though it’s a Japanese chain?

She had to find out, and, conveniently, she was hungry, so she popped in for a bowl.

The outside of the shop was very Parisian. With its outdoor seating, it looked more like a cafe than a ramen shop, and if you weren’t paying attention you might miss it entirely. However, it did have a kind of noren curtain at the entrance plus an awning, on which the name “IPPUDO” was clearly written in the Roman alphabet, so that gave it a slightly more Japanese feel.

It was cold on the day Ikuna went to Ippudo, so there was no one outside at the patio seats. The empty tables lined up so neatly really added to the cafe-like feel of the shop. In Japan it would be almost unheard of to eat a restaurant-prepared bowl of ramen outside unless it was an outdoor stall…but Ikuna thought that, if someone introduced the idea, it might be something that could suddenly surge in popularity, like tapioca tea did.

The clientele inside were mostly in groups, and despite it being the afternoon, there were quite a few couples on dates and businessmen and women doing negotiations. Actually, all of the customers were dressed very sharply, so Ikuna got the impression that they were wealthy. Was Ippudo actually a high-end restaurant in Paris, even though it’s a cheap comfort food in Japan? Or was that just Paris fashion?

A glance at the menu told her that the prices were about twice as expensive here as they were in Japan. The different kinds of ramen did seem to be the same, though, with “Shiromaru” and “Akamaru,” Ippudo’s two most popular varieties, on offer, and judging from the pictures they didn’t look any different than what you get in Japan.

But wait a minute…There’s something she’s never seen on the menu at Ippudo before!

Veggie ramen? That was new. The name written in Japanese, “Take Kaoru Veggie Men”, sounded a little funny. Mushroom scented veggie noodles? She found herself almost reading it out loud as she tried to figure out what it meant.

It turns out that this veggie ramen and the Tori Shoyu ramen next to it are menu items available only at the Paris branch. Well that changes things! Ikuna couldn’t go without trying one or the other of the Paris-exclusive items, and she just couldn’t the deny mysterious allure of the Veggie Ramen, so she decided to order that.

When she placed her order, she was asked, as is normal at Ippudo, how she wanted the noodles cooked. A fan of the extra-al dente style, she wanted “barikata” (“extra firm”), but apparently that’s not an option with the veggie ramen so she chose “kata” (“firm”) instead.

The Ramune soda she ordered along with her ramen was brought with a little saucer, and when Ikuna grabbed the bottle to open it, the staff quickly stopped her. Apparently, the ramune tended to bubble over when opened, so they preferred to open it in the saucer. They offered to open it for her, gingerly pushing in the tab and releasing the glass ball inside. Somehow, that little incident became an unexpected opportunity for cultural exchange between Ikuna and the French waitstaff.

And while they were doing that, the Take Kaoru Veggie Men arrived!

Ikuna had no idea if the broth was made from mushrooms or not, but it sure looked like a quality bowl of ramen!

True to its name, everything in this bowl of ramen was made of vegetables. In place of the typical chashu pork you would get in a bowl, the Take Kaoru Veggie Men had slices of eringi mushrooms and red radishes.

So without further ado, Ikuna took her first bite…

It was super light! If you asked Japanese people in a survey if these noodles were ramen or soba, you’d probably get a pretty even mix of answers, she thought.

Plus, all kinds of vegetables were used as toppings, including red bell peppers, onions, shimeji mushrooms, tomatoes, chickpeas, zucchini, and some kind of leafy green. Each type of vegetable had its own texture and level of crunchiness that added to the appeal of the noodles, and Ikuna thought it was impossible to get tired of it. The broth did also have a nice mushroom-y flavor to it, which perfectly complemented the thick noodles.

Moreover, this has to be one of the most healthy forms of ramen, ever. It’s certainly a recipe that turns the standard form of ramen on its head. Ikuna thought it was pretty awesome, but…

This ramen is completely unlike anything that Ippudo Japan offers. Ippudo is most famous for its rich tonkotsu broth, which is the complete opposite of the light mushroom and vegetable flavors of this veggie ramen. Frankly, you couldn’t find anything further away from Ippudo’s standard flavor than this.

Ikuna was, frankly, surprised to see such an item on the menu at all at Ippudo, even in Paris. She thought it would be more natural if the chain tried to play to its traditional strength, tonkotsu ramen, especially since many Parisians may not have had tokotsu ramen before. Plus, overseas travelers in Japan typically like tonkotsu ramen.

That’s why she couldn’t help but feel touching admiration for the courage Ippudo Paris must have had to put the veggie ramen on the menu. She also felt touched by Ippudo France’s attempt to make a kind of ramen for vegetarians. As a Japanese ramen consumer, she feels wholehearted support for Ippudo’s arduous work in expanding overseas.

▼ They also have a nice selection of Japanese alcohol, too.

And here’s one last fact about the Paris branch of Ippudo: though none of the staff were Japanese, whenever they were called they would respond with “Hai!”, and after you told them what you wanted they would shout it out in Japanese with an “Onegaishimasu!”, just like at a Japanese Ippudo. That really impressed Ikuna, and she couldn’t tell you in words exactly how satisfied she was with her experience at Ippudo Paris.

She did feel like it was kind of a shame that she didn’t have the chance to try the tonkotsu to see how it compared, but she has no regrets. She can always come back to Ippudo the next time she finds herself in Paris, and then she can try the tonkotsu. Scratch that…she’d rather try the Tori Shoyu instead!

Restaurant information:
Ippudo Louvre
74-76 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001, Paris, France

Photos © SoraNews24
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